Picking up immediately where we left off, the party enters the long awaited Lakebed Temple◊
. Marisa is startled◊
by the fact that there's suddenly air, and Nitori notes that the building isn't even airtight, so she's curious about the trick. Sanae lampshades◊
the fact that being underwater wasn't a problem last stage, although apparently their voices sounded funny. Reimu thinks it doesn't matter why, as long as we can move as if we're on land, since she doesn't want to fight the gods with a handicap. Then she starts laughing to herself evilly. Yeah, Reimu has an "interesting" personality in this game.
Byakuren wonders if they're actually inside in the temple now, because although the style looks roughly the same as outside it's a lot bigger than they thought it would be. This starts a little conversation about how impressive it is. However, Patchouli notes◊
that because it's so big it'll take a long time to search for the culprit, so we might as well get started. Reimu is eager to latch onto an excuse to get moving, as always.
Walking forward slightly, we see that the only path forward is blocked by water◊
, which is now an impassible barrier for some reason. Byakuren notices a sign off to the left, and walks over to read it◊
. The gist is that we're not allowed to proceed as one group. There are three switches in front of the water (labeled with the Caduceus
for some reason), and when all three are pressed at the same time, three paths will open up. So we'll have to split into three teams. Yay! I was really looking forward to this again! Except, three teams? Don't we have only 12 people?
Anyway, Patchouli thinks this is obviously a trap, and Sanae agrees but points out that there's no other way forward. Reimu's response is obvious: "traps or whatever, we'll just force our way through!"◊
It's decided that we'll go with this simple plan, so party splitting time! After we do so, three bridges of light◊
appear across the water and the three teams cross them before I get control again.
Quite frankly, this dungeon is really really hard. First of all, we split into 3 groups of four, which means smaller parties than usual. I suppose that's why 4 person formations exist. Second of all, most of my party is underleveled, as defined by getting bonus experience from monsters. Level 50 seems to be par here, and most of my girls are 10 levels too low. Last of all, and as a result of the previous point, most of my party cannot take a hit. I have 3 tanks, Alice, Mokou and Youmu, and other than that only Sakuya has enough armor and health to take more than a hit or two. Everyone else is a squishy mage of some degree or other.
Furthermore, the enemies aren't going easy on you. Despite the fundamental limitations of your parties and the fact that there are different enemy sets on each route, the game has no problem throwing Cockatrices on one route and Mind Flayers on another, making me wish I had two Sanaes. Or having a route primarily vulnerable to Light and Darkness and then throwing a giant robot immune to everything but lightning at you. You need well balanced teams that can handle almost anything thrown at them with only 4 people. Well, not quite, you need exactly the right
balance for each route, which can only be discovered by trial and error. It takes a lot
of tweaking, most of which I can't remember.
Visually, all three routes are the same and indeed they cross paths quite often. Some rooms are underwater, and some rooms aren't, but there doesn't seem to be any distinction between them. Most of the rooms are divided into upper and lower levels, and generally one team's route will take them on one level while another is stuck on the other levels. Paths are often blocked by giant floating crystals for some reason, but it's not like there's anything on the other side, it's just a fancy looking wall. There are switches that open and close paths for other teams, and switches that need to be pressed simultaneously to advance. Basically, everything I expected from the last time this happened back in Eientei (stage 9), except it didn't there. The enemy field sprites are now turtles.
About halfway through the dungeon, there's a cutscene showing what the Gorgon sisters are up to, but it's not too important. Genjii reports his failure, again, and the Hakurei Miko has now infiltrated the temple. Lithos is shocked◊
, but decides to leave it up to the last three servants who are now the final line of defense. I'm sorry Lithos, but always assuming that your next plan is sure
to thwart the heroes when the last few failed spectacularly is the sign of a dangerously Genre Blind
villain. Anyway, I'll treat the paths as separate sections.
For this team, my logic is "squishy wizards + the best tank". I put Alice, Marisa and Patchouli in here, with Nitori to round it out and provide some potential for physical damage. This turns out to actually be a pretty good party here, because most of the enemies are weak against magic and/or have strong elemental weaknesses. Unfortunately, they also have strong elemental attacks
and both Nitori and Patchouli are vulnerable to fire right now. Fighting fire elementals (Dragon Souls, technically) and firebreathing Orthrus led to much death, but Alice is good at retreating. In Nitori's case, this is not
because of an accessory but rather because of her character. She's just naturally weak against fire and strong against water, but accessories can fix that. Too bad I can't change accessories in the middle of a split-party dungeon. So I exit and reenter with the proper resistance.
Adding to my woes in this area are the dragons. First there's the Lamia, which is strong against all elements and casts charm, annoyingly enough. I barely manage to kill one, but in the future I just run away from them and avoid them. There's also the "Rokomo Dragon". I can't tell what Rokomo is supposed to be, but they're certainly dragons. They can can kill two people a turn (other than Alice of course) and they have some move where they breathe in menacingly. I've never seen what happens next, and I don't care to. They're also strong against all elements, so I just run from them. Note that running from an enemy leaves it on the field, so this strategy is doomed from the beginning.
Rounding out my troubles are some bird thing that spits light at me and Medea. Medea, who happens to look exactly like Caster from Fate Stay Night
, isn't much of a problem because of her lack of HP, but Alice's elemental guard doesn't work against light, and the birds have tons of evasion so Nitori can't hit them (her fire resistance replaced her hit accessory ;_;). Eventually I figure out that they're weak against lightning, but it took several battles to figure out this unintuitive fact.
Eventually I replace Nitori with Sakuya for the dragonslaying and Alice with Mokou because Alice is needed elsewhere. Given that Mokou isn't much of a tank because of her level and lack of taunting, the new paradigm for team A is kill them before they kill us. I also forgot to give them a healer. Oops. Better kill them even faster
then. Mokou is actually a surprisingly good fighter when specced into it, although she has very few bombs, but Sakuya makes up for it by spamming "Perfect Killing Doll" every battle. This ability hits a random number of enemies 1-4 times each, so it's a good way to start battles to thin the herds.
Going down the list of tanks in my head, I gave this path to Youmu. Since Youmu is the most offensively powerful of the tanks, I back her up with support-type characters: Sanae, Aya and Satori. Sanae keeps us alive while hitting things when she can, Satori poisons everything, and Aya is useless. Maybe she just needs a better weapon, but she seems really
weak now. Weaker than Mokou. Heck, she might have been more useful in the commander slot, come to think of it.
Anyway, it's a good thing I brought Youmu, because she carries this path on her own. The first enemies I encounter are Void elementals, who are immune to all magic and ailments, but weak against slashing. I think you can imagine where that goes. That's the basic trend of most of the enemies here: weak or neutral to physical and strong against elemental attacks. Which would make Aya an awesome addition if she could actually hurt anything. I'm actually quite confused by how weak she is.
Luckily poison works on everything, and now ticks for 500 because of Satori having more Induction accessories. Except for some reason it ticks for 460 if I cast a resistance buff first, which really confuses me. This makes Satori one of my best random battle damage dealers, although she's bad at focusing down priority targets. At some point I switch Satori with Byakuren because I really want to scan the enemies in another path, but I switch her back soon enough because everything's also strong against light and dark here, so Byakuren is useless.
Other than the Void elementals this place also has chimeras, computer chips, some... elephant-faced thing (?) and Mind Flayers. They're not actually Mind Flayers, being squid-devils, but they have squids for faces and use Mind Blast so they kill me like Mind Flayers. Like everything else, they die to the sword, but I'm really glad I have Sanae here. This actually ends up being the easiest route, all thanks to Youmu, Sanae and Satori
This is actually the hardest path, although that may be because it ends up with leftovers. Hey, it's hard to organize three parties in your head, and by the time I got here there wasn't much left. Mokou is the tank, Sakuya is the fighter, Reimu is the healer, and Byakuren is the other healer who I put in the same party for some reason. I mean, Byakuren nukes, and casts elemental weapon buffs on Sakuya.
Honestly, it's not a bad party, in theory. Sakuya is strong, Mokou is strong, and the enemies here are often vulnerable to light so Reimu and Byakuren can do lots of damage with light magic. Actually, I think Reimu is the MVP here, in a gross turnaround from last time. I'm not sure what the problem was last stage.
The problem with this path is the enemies. I'll start with the worst: the slime. It's immune to physical elements (slashing, blunt, piercing), has lots of life, and drains with its physical attack. While I can kill them decently fast with a fire enchant from Byakuren, they hit really hard and drain three times as much as they do. So while I'm dying they don't lose much health. If they decide to spare me from the drain, they do an all targeting psychic attack that does confuse, which gives the character a quite high random chance to fail to use spells or abilities. So basically its blind and silence combined, except not-really mitigated by a small chance to get your ability through.
Backing them up are cockatrices, who will randomly petrify the whole party. Remember that? From stage 8? Except now Sanae is in a different party so I'll have to deal with them without a resist buff. Reimu has a spellcard that makes the party immune to ailments for a turn, but it costs a bomb so it's not like I can use it every turn. So these guys are quite a problem, despite being vulnerable to light. At this point my only hope is to kill them really fast and pray, although luckily they seem to have much less induction than their predecessors.
The nail in the coffin though are the minotaurs. They just kill me, with single target physical damage. Mokou is no tank at all when she's being chopped in half by an axe. It's at this point I decide that I need
Alice and implement the aforementioned character swap with Team A. Alice provides a solution to all
my problems. She can taunt the slimes to reduce their healing by reducing the damage taken (she also has abilities that reduce damage to herself), she can protect Reimu from petrify by covering her and having high resistance herself from accessories, allowing Reimu to cure whoever gets hit, and she can tank the minotaurs and actually survive. Go Alice!
Unfortunately, Alice can't actually kill
things, and I just swapped out Sakuya too since Team A had a dragon problem. While neither Nitori nor Byakuren nor Reimu are particularly weak, they're not that strong either. Indeed this entire party fits into the "underleveled" category, as not one is getting normal experience from this dungeon. However, Alice is here to save the day and with two healers the best offense is a good defense. I still run away from slimes if there's more than one though.
Just when I get comfortable with this haphazard team, they throw a wrench at me. As mentioned, giant robots! They actually look like Gundams this time, and they're immune to light. I can very slowly kill them with Nitori's lightning attacks alone, but the robots aren't exactly weak offensively either, so I have to treat them like boss battles. Pair them with a slime and no thanks. Luckily I managed to not get trapped by that one.
Splitting your party is harder than it sounds. While I also had to do it before, I had the option of putting less useful seeming party members in the commander slot where they can get experience without doing anything. This time, I actually have to use
every character, and the enemies weren't going easy on me while I did so. While it was sometimes frustrating and I certainly died or ran back to the beginning an awful lot, enough to respawn the enemies at least twice, it was ultimately rewarding to use everyone to their best potential. Except Aya.
My saving grace though was that for two of the three paths, the endpoint with the ominous heal point was reached halfway through the dungeon. It's just that the door forward was block by three switches that needed to be hit at the same time. So these two parties (B and C) had the luxury of fighting next to a heal point, which means bomb spamming time! It's surprising how quickly you can use up your resources when you're not attempting to conserve them at all though.
Anyway, boss time! I think that'll be another post.